Phone Patch, Source Connect and ISDN – What is it and do you need one for your voice over business?
Directors and clients have a vision and it is up to us as the talent to bring that vision to life. In order to give the client exactly what they want this requires good direction. Now Direction and good direction are two different things, but I’ll save that for another article all together. There are many ways in which a client can direct you. Usually you are given some kind of direction once you’ve received the job. This may be written or verbal. If you are a local talent for this particular client, they may want you to come into a studio and therefore you will get your direction in person. Some of you may even host clients/directors in your own home studios (just make sure if you offer this service that you are voicing in a professional looking studio/environment).
If you are not getting directed in person, then it’s very important you accommodate the client with the means to direct your session. There are many options available, so I’ll go through them each briefly and focus on how to create your own phone patch.
ISDN – This is a VERY expensive service depending on where you live. If you are voicing high profile/high budget projects then ISDN may be necessary for you. This allows another studio to actually record your audio in their system, while you voice in yours. The ISDN hardware costs around $3000-$6000 used, so it can get very pricey and you have to own two dedicated ISDN fibre optic lines – which is becoming obsolete with the phone companies. We say monthly rates from $60-$300 (now averaging $300 per month to have the service). If you are in Canada – there is only ONE company that offers this service and finding a tech who knows anything about it can prove to be difficult. If you live away from a major centre – it may be very hard to have service provided in your area. If you are voicing big projects you MUST be ISDN compatible. So if you don’t have a dedicated ISDN line in your home studio, then you need to get the SPIDS (numbers and specs) from a studio who does carry ISDN and then you list yourself as ISDN accessible or available. Be warned however – not all budgets will include an amount for ISDN rental hours. Major studios charge approx. $200-$300 per hour for this service. Clients prefer this service so it’s important to consider how you can offer this service.
A much more cost effective option that offers a similar service, allowing the studio to record your audio in via their software is called Source Connect. There are other programs being released that are comparible, but I’m not certain of their reliability so I will only address Source Connect. This is a software program. The only hardware required is an ILOK key. This will hold your security passwords and allow the program to work. The only issue clients have with this service is that it’s internet dependent, therefore not 100% reliable. Also you will need to make sure that your internet is only being used by you at the time to ensure the HIGHEST digital stream possible, otherwise you may hear some break up and tech issues. This isn’t always the case but definitely something to consider. The other challenge is that the studio you are working with must also have Source Connect or you or the studio need to create a bridge. There are companies that do this for you. This allows a studio with ISDN to record into their ISDN system via a bridge from Source Connect. This is the service I use the most. The beauty of this service is that it’s much more cost effective. The initial cost is currently $650. A one time fee. You will need tech service however so there are tech service options as well at an additional fee. Not all clients prefer this service, but are more and more adaptable to it as they see talents deterring from the ISDN lines. You can listen to an interview that I did on Source Connect with programmer Rebekah Wilson here.
Phone Patch is a necessity no matter your level. If you are not recording big projects, you may not need the other two options, but you will definitely need to be able to offer the client a means to direct. You will need to hear their direction and you must make sure their direction isn’t bleeding into your recording. That means you’ll need to have a good idea of what you are doing. You won’t need to record their side of the conversation unless you want to hear their directions while you’re editing – knowing which take to keep etc. You can also take notes during the session so you make sure you give the client their choices. You also need to be SURE everything is recording. I lost a HUGE opportunity to be the voice of a TV series, all because the record button wasn’t recording while I was taking direction. I tried my best to replicate it but was never able to.
There are a few different ways to create a phone patch. I will begin with the FREE versions.
The poor man’s version is using a cordless phone with headset capability. Use ear bud headphones and place the phone close to where you are voicing so the clients can hear you as clearly as possible. Place the phone on your script stand – as this is close proximity to your mouth. Place your studio headphones over top of your ear bud headphones. I recommend using only one ear bud to hear direction. When doing a phone patch I highly recommend you listen to your VO while you record – this isn’t always advised but when the client is relying on you, it’s important you listen for tech or sound issues. When clients can’t hear play back, they are relying on your tech ears to know if there are any troubles on takes etc.
Next step up and even cheaper if you already use skype is setting up a Skype phone patch. This is a bit trickier as you’ll need to know how to allow your computer to be heard through your mixer. You need to hear their direction from the computer and your voice at the same time – so you will more than likely need to wire it so your computer is coming through on a separate track on your software program. It will just depend on what software and hardware you use. The only issue using skype is that if you are using it as a phone – you may need to subscribe monthly if you are phoning a phone line. If the client has a skype account then you can get away with it for free. Skype is HIGHLY recommended for many things – so a worthy investment and a VERY popular option for phone patch. The downfall is it is also Internet dependent – so reliable Internet service is key.
There are also products out there such as the Quick Tap and very specific phone patch products that cost anywhere from $49 and up. There a tons of different options here, but what someone would use to tap their phone is the same thing you can use for phone patch. This allows you to have a dedicated patch that will allow you to easily record the direction and the VO on separate tracks. This is also great for VOICE coaching sessions. There are specific phone patch boxes as well that are built specifically for this need (they can get a bit pricey – but not too bad). The box would connect to your phone and your mixer (each patch equipment is different so it may differ.
Each of us has different recording needs, so you must create the phone patch system that works best for you. If you have one of our first options (ISDN or Source Connect), you will more than likely be required to still have a phone patch.
Now taking the direction is an entirely different story…so I’ll save that for another time.
If you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out
Until next time
VO Chef Deb